Russian Businessman Taken By U.S. Accused of Swiping Earnings Reports From Tesla, Others

Russian Businessman Taken By U.S. Accused of Swiping Earnings Reports From Tesla, Others
The Kremlin in Moscow, Sept. 29, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Sekretarev, AP)

Swiss authorities in Zurich put Vladislav Klyushin, a Russian businessman widely noted for his Kremlin ties, on a flight bound for the U.S. on Saturday, ending a months-long extradition fight that cast a pall over this summer’s Putin-Biden talks in Geneva.

Swiss reporters first confirmed Klyushin’s extradition Saturday night; the U.S. Justice Department on Monday said the 41-year-old, a top official at Moscow-based IT firm called M-13, would stand trial on charges of insider trading, citing information allegedly “stolen from U.S. computer networks,” netting “tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits.”

In all, the charges carry potentially decades’ worth of prison time.

Klyushin, whose company advertises cybersecurity and media-monitoring services and reportedly works with the Kremlin and government ministries, has denied the charges repeatedly in the press through his attorney, while accusing the U.S. of having ulterior political motives.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said Klyushin and four partners enacted a plan between 2018 and 2020 to game stock markets by stealing confidential earnings reports from several U.S. businesses. These reports allegedly enabled the group — which includes a former intelligence officer previously charged by the U.S. in a 2016 election hacking case — to buy and sell shares armed with insider knowledge of whether prices would rise or fall.

“As alleged, Klyushin and his co-defendants used various illegal and malicious means to gain access to computer networks to perpetrate their illegal trading scheme,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Albert Murray III said in a statement.

Ivan Ermakov, who’s said to be a former Russian military intelligence officer — one of 12 indicted in 2018 on accusations of meddling with the 2016 U.S. presidential election — is charged alongside Klyushin, and accused of hacking at least one of the networks used to compromise the U.S. companies, which includes Tesla Inc., SS&C Technologies, Capstead Mortgage Corp., and Nevro Corp., the U.S. attorney said.

In a story this month about Ilya Sachkov, another Russian businessman fallen from grace, Bloomberg reported that the 35-year-old, once head of a prominent security firm, may have been targeted for treason charges after providing Western agencies information on Klyushin. Sachkov may also be under suspicion, according to Bloomberg, of sharing details about one of the Russian hacking teams behind the campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

Rebuffing the hacking and insider trading charges prior to his extradition this month, Klyushin attorney Oliver Ciric told reporters the U.S. government’s case was a ruse designed to squeeze Klyushin for information about the election campaign.